25 Jun 2009, 11:04pm
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on saturday elana and i went to the berkeley art museum. we didn’t actually get to see all the exhibits ’cause the five o’clock closing time snuck up on us. (afterwards we ate delicious pizza and then went to a chocolate café for sweet drinks. i ate very well on this trip!) we did check out the exhibit called human/nature: artists respond to a changing planet, for which several artists visited various UNESCO-designated “World Heritage” sites and created art based on their experiences with the land and people they encountered. one of the artists, dario robleto, visited waterton glacier international peace park on the u.s./canadian border, and (though i think the connection was pretty loose) created incredibly detailed cabinet-of-curiosities sorta displays. the materials lists on the description placards were almost as interesting as the artworks themselves. i didn’t write any of them down, but the BAM website includes this list of materials for a piece called Some Longings Survive Death:

glacially released 50,000-year-old woolly mammoth tusks, nineteenth-century braided hair flowers of various lovers intertwined with glacially released woolly mammoth hair, carved ivory and bone, bocote, colored paper, silk, ribbon, typeset

anyway, one of his artworks was a showcase of sorts of supercentenarians (people aged 110 years or more) who were, for some period of time before their death, the oldest person alive. one of the people featured, jeanne calment, lived to the age of 122 years before she died in 1997–the oldest verified person to have ever lived. according to robleto’s description of her included in his artwork, her friends and relatives attributed her long life and vivacious health to the following four things:

1. she rode her bicycle until she was 100 years old,
2. she drank a lot of port wine,
3. she treated her skin with olive oil,
4. and she ate two pounds of chocolate every week!

i can definitely get behind that. other supercentenarians attributed their longevity to laughter and dancing.


a few evenings before that, i took a. out to the wonderful greens restaurant (did i mention i ate fantastically on this trip? several years ago a near stranger bought me a delicious meal at greens), at fort mason in san francisco. next door we found a curious “museum and store” run by the long now foundation. they were closed, but we peeked in and saw enough to arouse our interest, most notably the following quote (from danny hillis, a member of the board of the foundation) printed on the wall:

I think of the oak beams in the ceiling of College Hall at New College, Oxford. Last century, when the beams needed replacing, the carpenters used oak trees that had been planted in 1386 when the dining hall was first built. The 14th century builder had planted the trees in anticipation of the time, hundreds of years in the future, when the beams would need replacing.

wow! wow! wow!

do you think the more recent carpenters planted new trees?

anyway, the foundation is trying to build a clock that will run with minimal-to-no human input for 10,000. most of the museum’s exhibits were devoted to clever mechanical ways to make that happen.

i am reading jared diamond’s book collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed right now, about past and present civilizations and cultures that have had to deal with environmental problems, both ones they’ve caused and ones they haven’t. it’s fascinating, and is really making me question some assumptions i had about humans’ relationships and history with our planet. more applicably, it’s making me wonder what we’re really saying when we talk about ideals, systems, and methods within our culture being “proven.” we are young yet.



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